Many of us who spend a lot of time outside are warned to watch out for ticks, since they can spread Lyme disease. Did you know Lyme disease can have a serious impact on your hearing?
Lyme disease is an infectious bacterial disease spread by ticks. Classic early signs of an infection are a rash in the shape of a bulls-eye or a fever. If you see these symptoms, it is important to get treated right away. If not, the bacteria can spread to the bloodstream and cause neurological problems, including meningitis, loss of muscle tone in the face, memory loss, sleep disturbances, or mood changes.
How Lyme disease can affect your hearing
If left untreated, it can cause even more severe damage to your body, including your auditory system. This can include hearing loss, hyperacusis, and tinnitus. An estimated 48 percent of patients with late-stage Lyme diseases may develop hearing problems.
People who end up with hearing loss may have to wear hearing aids. Hearing aids come in a variety sizes and with a wide range of technology to suit the needs of all patients.
Hyperacusis is when patients experience extreme sensitivity to sound. Usually it just affects louder sounds, but in some cases ordinary sounds can be painful. It can be treated with sound therapy and cognitive behavior therapy, CEENTA Audiologist Briana Garrett, AuD, said.
Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing a ringing or high-pitched sound with no source. There is no cure for tinnitus, although it can be managed with hearing aids, sound therapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy.
How to protect against Lyme disease
Ideally, the best way to prevent Lyme disease-related hearing loss is to prevent Lyme disease in the first place. If you spend a lot of time outside, whether you’re playing, gardening, or hiking, you should avoid grassy, brushy, or wooded areas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC also recommends checking your clothes for ticks once you come back inside. Clothes should be washed in hot water. You should also take a shower within two hours of coming inside. It can help wash ticks off your body and is also a good opportunity to check your body for ticks. During a tick check, you should examine your entire body, using a mirror when necessary.
If you do find a tick attached to you, remove it as soon as you see it. Follow the guidelines set by the CDC or a similar medical organization. Watch for signs of illness and see a doctor immediately if they develop.
An audiologist will be able to help you determine the extent of any hearing damage and will come up with a treatment plan best suited for your needs. Lyme disease is a serious condition, and if you do contract it our doctors will do everything they can to help you with your hearing.
This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician. To make an appointment with an audiologist, call 704-295-3000. You can also schedule an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.